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Bereft parents try to fill the holes in their hearts after murder

May 12, 2010 | 11:59 am

Bereft parents try to fill holes in heartsHere is the woman whose daughter-in-law stabbed her son to death and smothered her two grandchildren in their beds. And there is the mother who discovered her daughter's limp body inside the family van. The timid couple who have thought about taking their own lives since their son was knifed in the back — they come here too.

At the Santa Anita Church in Arcadia, they gather for a monthly meeting of a club no one aspires to join. They are the San Gabriel Valley chapter of Parents Of Murdered Children.

It begins like any reunion, with hugs and laughter and doughnuts and coffee. But when the cups are set aside, when the green vinyl-covered chairs are pulled into a circle, when the overhead lights brighten against the slowly dimming sky, members talk about unspeakable events and haunting dreams.

The only agenda here is to share. Share what it's like to wait for a break in the case, for a killer to be arrested, for a trial to begin, for a parole board to meet. Share whatever you want.

"A lot of times you get the feeling that people think you should've done something to protect them in some way," offers Jan Williams, her voice quiet but steady. "You should have seen something, you should've stepped in."

Williams' son Neal, 27, was stabbed more than 90 times inside his Rowland Heights home in 2007. His sons Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, were suffocated with a pillow, detectives said. Awaiting trial for all three homicides is Neal's wife, Manling Williams, 30.

People have often callously asked Williams: "What did he do to make her mad?"

Since the killings, stress drove her to take a medical leave from her job at Whittier College, during which she learned her position had been eliminated. She has wrestled with depression and endured vivid descriptions of the murders during court hearings.

"I've noticed she looks to see if I'm there," Williams, 52, says of her daughter-in-law, who is being held without bail. "Being a stubborn person, I'm always there. But you have to key yourself up to go to these. I think they'll go on long enough until it kills me bit by bit."

Read the full story here.

--Corina Knoll